VICTORIA: by Gabrielle WalshNews Weekly
Electoral redistribution could favour ALP, Greens
, July 20, 2013
One third of Victorian voters could find themselves in new electorates between now and the next state election, scheduled to take place in November 2014.
Victoria’s Electoral Boundaries Commission on June 27, 2013 recommended an extensive re-distribution of the state’s electoral boundaries. Submissions in response to these proposals are due by July 29 and public hearings due in August.
A re-distribution in Victoria has been long overdue, according to the guidelines of the state’s Electoral Legislation (Amendment) Act 2004. The proposed changes would be the first for Victoria’s parliamentary lower house (the Legislative Assembly) since 2001, and the first for the state’s upper house (the Legislative Council) since 2005.
The Electoral Boundaries Commission claims that its proposed new electoral boundaries have been designed “to ensure that each vote in Victorian state elections has an equal value and that each elector is represented equally in the Victorian parliament”. The re-division is meant to ensure that the number of enrolled electors for each electorate is within 10 per cent of the state’s average.
However, the proposed changes mean that about 1.1 million, or one in three, Victorian voters would find themselves in new voting districts for the state lower house’s 88 small, single-member electorates, known as districts. Many electorate boundaries would be altered, some significantly, with some seats abolished and 13 new ones created.
The proposed new boundaries reflect additions to the voting population, from about 37,000 to 45,000 electors, pushing into the growth corridors reaching out from the Melbourne metropolitan area and the major regional centres across the state.
The re-division, however, would not change the number of MPs sitting either in the 88-member Legislative Assembly, or in the 40-member upper house, the Legislative Council.
The Legislative Council would retain its current eight large multi-member electorates, known as regions, each of which returns five members (40 in total, as set out in Victoria’s Constitution Act 1975.
However, the recommendations propose significant changes with the creation of 13 new lower-house districts, the abolition of nine old ones, and the re-location of five districts into different upper-house regions.
The Eastern Metro Region would see the abolition of Doncaster (held by Mary Wooldridge, Liberal) and Mitcham (held by Dee Ryall, Liberal) and the move of Ivanhoe from the Northern Metro Region into the Eastern, and Mount Waverley from South-Eastern Metro into the Eastern. The proposed new electorates of Croydon and Ringwood would be included in the new Eastern Metro Region.
The districts of Pascoe Vale and Yuroke, both in the existing Western Metro Region, would be moved into Northern Metro Region.
Along with the recommended move of Mount Waverley into the Eastern Metro Region there would be three new districts in the South-Eastern Metro Region: Clarinda, Scoresby and Keysborough.
The Southern Metro Region would be largely unaffected, except for the notable expansion of the Kew district into part of the suburb of Box Hill.
In the Western Metro Region it is proposed that the districts of Derrimut (held by Telmo Languiller, ALP) and Keilor (Natalie Hutchins, ALP) should be abolished and the new districts of St Albans, Sunbury, Sydenham and Werribee established. These new districts could make up almost half the region.
Parts of regional Victoria would also be affected by the recommendations.
Of note are the proposed changes in the Northern Victoria Region, where three districts are to be abolished, each of them held by National Party MPs — Benalla (Dr Bill Sykes), Murray Valley (Tim McCurdy) and Rodney (Paul Weller). Three new districts are proposed: Eildon and Ovens Valley. It is also proposed that the district of Yan Yean (currently held by Danielle Green, ALP) should be moved from the Northern Metro Region into the Northern Victoria Region.
In the Western Victoria Region, the districts of Ballarat East (held by Geoff Howard, ALP) and Ballarat West (held by Sharon Knight, ALP) are to be abolished and replaced with the new districts of Ballarat and Buninyong.
There would be no significant changes to the districts in the Eastern Victoria Region apart from boundary adjustments.
Overall, the redistribution would undoubtedly favour Labor, with the new districts of Werribee and Sunbury being “ALP-inclined” and the seat of Buninyong encompassing the highest “Greens” voting area in the Ballarat area.
The National Party would be the real loser in the re-distribution, particularly in the Northern Region, with three currently held National seats facing abolition, and the southern end of the region pushed down into the “ALP-inclined” outer northern Melbourne metropolitan area around Yan Yean.
With many new districts proposed, it is important to remember that each new district would be represented by its own member of parliament and ultimately influence the outcome of the next Victorian state election in both the lower and the upper chambers of parliament. It would also present a vigorous preselection season as current sitting members and new candidates would be competing for districts that have only notional, not actual, voting histories.
Gabrielle Walsh is Victorian state president of the National Civic Council.